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Top 10 Jim Steinman songs: The Top 1

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1. I’d Do Anything for Love (Meat Loaf, 1993)

You don’t get more Jim Steinman than this! Twelve minutes of sheer, relentless bombast, ever-increasing stakes in the wild promises made by the male singer (can he return from hell? Yup) made even more over-the-top by the challenges levelled by his lover (can he build an emerald city out of grains of sand? Yup). Frankly, there’s an excellent reason why this topped the charts all over the world. This is ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ grown up, maturer, and with a sense of the limits love must go to beyond the black-and-white morality of youth (can he screw around? Nope). The song is also one of immense beauty, complete with screaming angels and revving motorbikes – as ever, the clash between the divine and the dirty, euphoria and apocalypse which makes Jim Steinman such a unique songwriter.


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Top 10 Jim Steinman songs of all time: medal positions!

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Edited by Gabriel Spreckelsen Brown, Friday, 23 Feb 2024, 15:42

2. Paradise by the Dashboard Light (Meat Loaf, 1977)

This song is almost a musical in its own right, falling into four separate narrative ‘scenes’ which build to a crescendic climax which the characters never quite get in their night together. The exuberantly pouncy music and ebullient couplets in the first section evokes youthful naïvety, before moving into the bizarrest way of portraying a love tryst: racing commentary. However, it's when Ellen Foley's character (apparently recorded in one take) becomes standoffish in the third section when the song turns farcically hilarious and a joy to behold. The fourth section is a cumulation of what's gone before and if you haven't started dancing and screaming along by that point then I can't help you.

Most Steinamnesque line: 'Glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife'

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Top 10 Jim Steinman songs of all time: medal positions!

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Edited by Gabriel Spreckelsen Brown, Wednesday, 21 Feb 2024, 11:54

3. Dead Ringer for Love (Meat Loaf and Cher, 1981)

A key characteristic of Jim Steinman’s music is complete clarity of voice: the lyrics should be un-confusable. Hence why this duet is so impressive, because it is fast; Meat Loaf and Cher don’t deliver so much as spit out the lyrics with a lusty speed which lesser singers would trip over. At the same time, the song works like a sitcom in miniature: Meat Loaf of the awful chat-up line (‘Throw the dog a bone’) and Cher of the diamond-sharp put-down (‘You’ve got the kind of mind that does less than think’). Think West Side Story if it was written by anarchists and you’re not far off.

Most Steinmanesque line: the title line has got to be one of the most daring allusions in rock history.

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Top 10 Jim Steinman songs of all time

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4. What Part of My Body Hurts the Most? (Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton, 2017)

People don’t come to Jim Steinman expecting a lovely song. Written especially for his jukebox musical, ‘What Part of My Body Hurts the Most?’ is as lovely as rock gets. Sung by an old married couple following a separation, they invoke phantom limbs and exorcisms in a sad lament of their mutual loneliness. See? Lovely. Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton are the voices on the original soundtrack, and quite frankly it’s devastating that Steinman never wrote an album for them, because they have the bombast to carry it off.

Most Steinmanesque line: 'You're a ghost and I've been cursed – But if you were exorcised, it would only make it worse!'

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Top 10 Jim Steinman songs of all time

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5. Holding out for a Hero (Bonnie Tyler, 1986)

This is Jim Steinman at his most libidinously hysterical. It’s essentially five solid minutes of Bonnie Tyler screaming into a wind tunnel. The epic style of Steinman’s music means that a certain enormity of voice is mandatory. This is why Air Supply and Barry Manilow should not have been allowed to sing his music. Fortunately, Bonnie Tyler has such an impressive set of pipes that the unreasonably high criteria she has for a lover in this song seems not only justified, but non-negotiable. You would expect no less than a superman to woo a woman with fire in her blood!


Most Steinmanesque line: The one about there being fire in her blood, see above.

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Top 10 Jim Steinman songs of all time

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Edited by Gabriel Spreckelsen Brown, Wednesday, 14 Feb 2024, 09:36

6. Rebel without a Clue (Bonnie Tyler, 1986)

Have you ever heard a guitar sing? Bonnie Tyler’s duets with disposable men (Total Eclipse, Loving You’s a Dirty Job) don’t stand up to the plaintive wail of the guitar in the bridge of this masterpiece. I cannot imagine why this song isn’t more well-known – it’s humorous, the imagery comes thick and fast with some of the most exuberant rhyme schemes anywhere else in rock. It’s awfully grown-up for a song about (ahem) romantic ineptitude…

Most Steinmanesque line: ‘Dirty Harry to Madonna!’ 


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Top 10 Jim Steinman songs of all time

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7. Bat Out of Hell (Meat Loaf, 1977)

This is one hell of a prologue (pun intended). As an exemplar of Jim Steinman’s extraordinarily evocative imagery, this opening number (for his career!) is unparalleled. It sounds like the shooting script for a dystopian blockbuster, whilst also moving through unpredictable musical phases. It has all the elements of a good story: protagonist, love interest, obstacles, goals, three-part structure; and to top it all, it's the highest-selling debut in pop history. Not bad for a song about motorbikes.

Most Steinmanesque line: ‘He was starting to foam in the heat.’ I mean, what does that even mean?


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Top 10 Jim Steinman songs of all time

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8. Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire (Meat Loaf, 1993)

Unusually devoid of laments, dystopias or irony, Steinman finally wrote an unambiguously happy song for Bat out of Hell II (not counting the random ‘walking wounded’). It opens with a cheery woohoo from each of the instruments, building into a surrealist city in which yet another libertine attempts seduction via a series of extravagant metaphors backed by yet another angelic choir. It’s great fun! (Do note that the full-length song is actually the half-length song sung twice.)

Most Steinmanesque line: ‘You can feel the pulse of the pavement racing like a runaway horse.’


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Top 10 Jim Steinman songs of all time

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9. Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler, 1983)

Sometimes considered Steinman’s masterpiece, this inescapably weird song is accompanied by an even weirder music video. But don't worry – the look isn't the point, we're here for Tyler’s raspy voice and Rory Dodd’s scrotally-scrunching falsetto, each reflecting the wild torment in the lyrics. The song literally explodes off the record player with sudden harmonic shifts and continual escalation, as frightening and dazzling as staring into the sun. What a coincidence!

Most Steinmanesque line: 'We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks.'

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Top 10 Jim Steinman songs of all time

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10. It’s All Coming Back to Me Now (Céline Dion, 1996)

If anything, this may be the hardest song in Celine Dion’s catalogue, requiring as it does the quiet bits to be sung loudly and the loud bits to be sung REALLY LOUDLY. There’s no easing in, making ‘My Heart Will Go On’ seem like a warm-up. Despite Dion's almost antibacterial elegance, the music video is nevertheless classic Steinman, complete with motorbikes, gothic manors and ostentatiously symbolic lightning. But don’t listen to the extended version: 6 minutes is this song’s natural length.

Most Steinmanesque line: 'There were nights when the wind was so cold, that my body froze in bed if I just listened to it right outside the window.'

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Top 10 Jim Steinman songs of all time

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Everybody has that one album, one songwriter, one voice which seems to ricochet around their heart. A musical arrow which lands so directly into the bullseye of your soul you wonder if it was written directly for you. As surprising as it is to anybody who knows me – the shambolic, fluffy-spirited musical theatre fan – the rock innovator Jim Steinman writes the music to my soul. Something about the extremes of emotion, the dizzying heights of humour, the random angelic/satanic choirs, all captures me spellbound. 

Hopefully it isn't just me. 

Whilst I'm not a music critic, and I'm not studying music with the OU, I believe (hope) that my lived experience is enough to make a semi-authoritative list of the best Jim Steinman songs he ever wrote. I also intend to give a flavour of Jim Steinman music as a genre unto itself, in the hope that he does not remain a niche obsession.

Things are looking up for his influence. Olivia Rodrigo's recent hit single Vampire seems to at least reference the gothic twinges, searing agony and wild excesses of Jim Steinman. More like this, please!

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